Billy Porter and Tiffany Haddish star in Like a Boss. GLAAD called Porter’s character Barrett “a good example of casual inclusion with an explicitly LGBTQ character”. Eli Joshua Adé hide caption
Eli Joshua Adé
Eli Joshua Adé
LGBTQ characters took up a little more space in the movies in 2020. According to GLAAD’s yearbook Studio Responsibility Index, there has been an increase in the proportion of films with LBGTQ characters. A good chunk of those were serious, significant characters too – 80% of these films had LGBTQ characters with more than 10 minutes of screen time. The group found that the percentage of LGBTQ characters also increased with color.
These numbers show a positive trend when it comes to the portrayal of LGBTQ in film, but there is, of course, a huge grain of salt: the pandemic rocked the film industry and affected theatrical distribution. In the 2020 study, only 44 films are considered, compared to 118 in the previous year. The group has therefore decided to dispense with the usual 5-star rating scale this year.
It is clear that there are still so many stories to tell and so many more films to be made and seen.
Aside from the caveats, GLAAD found a number of blatant gaps in the LGBTQ portrayal in the film. According to the report, the major studios’ theatrical releases contained zero Transgender or non-binary characters for the fourth year in a row. There were no LGBTQ characters with a disability. And there weren’t any LGBTQ characters living with HIV.
In a foreword to the report, GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis noted in particular that the latter group is exposed to “incredibly high levels of stigma and discrimination”.
“We have seen how culture can change when stories have a face, especially when Billy Porter recently shared his experience of living with HIV and received incredible waves of support,” she said. “It is clear that there are so many more stories to be told and so many more films to be made and seen.”
Characters are identified by the study as LGBTQ based on what is presented on the screen or by a “broad and widely shared cultural knowledge of a real person”. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), for example, clearly presented the character Renee Montoya as out-lesbian with an ex-girlfriend. On the other hand, coffee shop boss Gail in Promising Young Woman, played by the transgender actress Laverne CoxShe didn’t count as there was “no indication that Gail’s character is transgender when she could very well be.”
Overall, the report found that audiences are changing rapidly, citing a Gallup poll 15.9% of Generation Z Americans are identified as LGBT. If studios and production companies are to stay relevant, “they have to be prepared for this group,” Ellis said.